The hotel, which has just kicked off renovations, is a project rooted in the history of Rome. At the end of 2024, a new décor and interior inspired by the Roman domus and the riches of the “Eternal City” will be revealed with a new touch of contemporary elegance.
Orient Express, artisan of travel since 1883 and brand of Accor, and Italian group Arsenale S.p.A, experts in luxury hotels and hospitality, have entrusted the interior design and artistic direction of the hotel to architect and designer Hugo Toro.
“Orient Express has found its ideal stopover in Rome," says Hugo Toro, adding: “It is a symbolic city that evokes emotion and amazement in everyone who visits. It is a place that feels like magic, imprinted by marks of history and a rich palette of textures, materials and colours. All of this is in perfect harmony with the mysterious and travel-focused identity of Orient Express.”
In his Promenades à Rome (Walks through Rome), the architect travelled to the heart of the city’s historic centre, found treasures in bookstores, discovered the Pantheon, and brought his notebooks and watercolours to the famous Piazza de la Minerva, whose name derives from the goddess of artisans and eternal Protector of Rome. He sketched the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, and Bernini’s obelisk with its elephant high on the pedestal. He passed by the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva – the only gothic church in Rome – and then saw Michelangelo’s Pietà, all before stopping in front of the façade of the anticipated Orient Express La Minerva.
“The former Palazzo Fonseca is a sumptuous palace from the 17th century, with a huge and majestic facade," Toro explains, adding: “It is a heritage site still adorned with Roman columns, sculptures by Rinaldi Rinaldo, a disciple of Canova, and the fascinating Minerva. It is a secret spot where you can go to think and admire the wonders of the Sant'Ivo dome, the roof of the Quirinal Palace and the Pantheon from its panoramic terrace.”
Born on the French-German border to a Mexican mother and a French father, architect and designer Hugo Toro shares a love of culture, encounters and travel with Orient Express. He is the interior architect behind the designs of the Gigi restaurants in Paris, Val d'Isère and Ramatuelle, in addition to exceptional apartments and private Parisian mansions. Recently he ventured to London where he designed Booking Office 1869, the new restaurant in the 19th-century ticket hall at St Pancras station, and last summer Hugo Toro conceived the scenography of Orient Express’ pop-up at La Samaritaine in Paris. An obvious collaboration at the centre of a space inspired by the world of Orient Express, which featured the brand’s first collection of travel objects entitled Steam Dream, created in collaboration with 18 houses and artisans.
"We are delighted to be working with Hugo Toro to capture the timeless essence of the city of romance and legend within Orient Express La Minerva. Having made his first foray into Orient Express designing our pop-up scenography at La Samaritaine, this remarkable designer continues his journey with us into Rome. His passion for history, sensitivity and skill at elevating historic surroundings with a new contemporaneity will help us to create in Orient Express La Minerva one of the most enchanting destinations in the world,” says Stephen Alden, CEO Raffles & Orient Express.
"The history of La Minerva will be revived in Hugo Toro’s hands, during this period of renaissance in the city of Rome. It’s a chapter that is part of a dynamic global project for the tourism sector, connected to the launch of Orient Express La Dolce Vita trains, which will connect the country’s cities of art and culture to its small villages through an integrated ultra-luxury offer for travellers who choose to explore and discover Italy," said Gilda Cotzias, Real Estate and Construction Manager of Arsenale S.p.A.